As a leadership strategist, adjunct professor, and CEO of the program evaluation research firm Pillar Consulting, alum Bahby Banks (SPH’05) is committed to equity and to cultivating the next generation of leaders.
Now Banks will be recognized for her own professional accomplishments as the 2019 recipient of the School of Public Health’s Distinguished Alumni Award. She will receive the award at the SPH Alumni + Friends Reception on Monday, November 4, during the American Public Health Association’s annual conference in Philadelphia, Pa. The award is presented annually to alumni who have made outstanding contributions to public health.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by your peers—it means you’re doing something right,” says Banks, who was nominated for the award by fellow members of the SPH community. “I’m looking forward to meeting other alumni at the reception, and establishing new connections and partnerships in the realm of health equity and leadership.”
At Pillar Consulting, Banks provides consultation to nonprofit, corporate, philanthropic, and academic organizations on the development, implementation, evaluation and dissemination of their initiatives. Her work has led to a career that has spanned research in the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Australia. Based in Durham, N.C., Banks’ clients have included Harvard University, Wake Forest University, NC A&T State University, and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Under Banks’ leadership, Pillar Consulting has spearheaded efforts funded by the National Science Foundation, DuPont Foundation, deBeaumont Foundation, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.
Recognizing a need for leaders to leverage their talents, Banks created ENVISION Empowerment Experience™, an innovative, half-day leadership intensive that combines her expertise in curriculum development, leadership strategy and community engagement. This intensive takes place annually in Durham, but Banks also partners with organizations to conduct the workshop across the country. Her goal is simple: to create and environment in which attendees can reflect on their personal and professional goals and develop strategy to achieve them. Banks has facilitated ENVISION with Eastman Chemical Company, the Southeastern Association for Community Action Agencies, the American Heart Association and most recently hosted as part of Essence Festival Weekend in New Orleans.
“I have worked with clients who have done everything they needed to advance personally and professionally, but for a variety of reasons aren’t able to envision the next version of themselves in their career,” Banks says. “I created this dedicated space for people from all walks of life to apply strategies on professional development, effective networking, and communication that will help them pursue and achieve their goals.”
Banks also provides one-on-one career coaching and regularly speaks at conferences and other events. She is also an adjunct professor at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and mentors current SPH students.
“Whether I’m conducting leadership training for 400 leaders or working one-on-one with a client, I enjoy helping people reach that “a-ha” moment—that moment when they realize they’re not bystanders in their story, they’re active participants who can achieve their goals with the right resources and connections,” Banks says.
At SPH, Banks studied epidemiology and biostatistics, and she credits the MPH program with providing technical skills in study design and methodology. Banks’ daily commute to SPH opened her eyes to broader contextual factors that were driving epidemics in marginalized communities.
“I lived in Jamaica Plain during my studies, and I saw inequity every day on the bus ride to school,” Banks says. “People were dealing with real issues. I couldn’t close my eyes to what was happening around me, and that’s what drove me to study health equity.” Today, Banks’ work in includes mixed-method approaches for a variety of issues, including the social determinants of health, child literacy, equity and inclusion, HIV/AIDS, and STEM education.